Nothing Like Chimney Smells & Fireplace Odors

There is nothing quite like the musty, moldy smell that can come from a nasty fireplace. If it has ever happened to you or is happening now, you know what we mean. Fireplace smells come from creosote deposits in your chimney, which is a natural byproduct of burning wood.

You May Not Know Until it Gets Warm

Chimney odors are usually worse in the summer when the humidity is high, on rainy days, and when the air conditioning is running. Having your chimney swept may help minimize your fireplace smell but will not solve the problem.

Creosote particles absorb into the porous masonry construction inside your chimney, embedding the fireplace smell beyond the masonry’s surface (similar to the way the inside of your firebox is stained black with use). A chimney sweeping will remove the surface buildup of creosote to help prevent an ignition (chimney fire), but the chimney odors remain absorbed into the masonry surface causing fireplace smells.

The Real Problem: Negative Pressure

The real problem is air coming down the chimney, which is a symptom of overall pressure problems.  As air moves down through your chimney, it brings the inner fireplace smells & chimney odors along with it.  It is likely that your chimney is just the victim of a negative pressure problem.

Close up view creosote build up in pipe with blurred background

Basement fireplaces are the biggest culprit because the lowest level of your home has the highest levels of negative pressure.  The basic concept is that the more air-tight your home, the less air exchange (or make-up air) can enter your home.  Older, draftier homes do not experience these problems as much because air is entering from many other places.  Once these areas are sealed, the path of least resistance is the chimney and its metal-on-metal damper, which may or may not be closed all the way.

Two Ways To Fix The Problem

To fix the problem (negative pressure) or manage the symptom (smelly air from fireplace) you have two options. To completely solve the problem of negative pressure in the home, you have to equalize it by bringing outside air into the home through your HVAC system.  Contact your heating and air conditioning contractor and they can install a HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) system to achieve this goal for around $3,500.00.  If you want to manage the symptom by stopping the air from entering the chimney from the top, an Energy Top Plus top-sealing damper can be installed for around $589.00 on average.

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Every home presents unique challenges, and our technicians have been solving these problems for our customers since 1978. We have an excellent track record. See our rating on Angie’s List where we are ranked #1, or on the Better Business Bureau website where we maintain an A+ rating.

Call us today or contact us online. Give us the chance and we will wow you!


Fireplaces and stoves are not the only potential source of a dangerous home fire. Have your dryer vents inspected and cleaned regularly by Winston’s with years of experience with chimney and dryer vent issues.